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Ajeetesh Sandhu keeps home challenge alive

Harpal Singh Bedi | Gurugram |

Ajeetesh Sandhu fired four under 68 to keep the Indian challenge alive as the several home favourites including Shubhankar Sharma floundered in the Hero Indian Open at the DLF Golf and Country Club here on Thursday.

Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo led the field with the course record equaling 7 under 65 as the opening day play was curtailed due to fading lights. 24 players have yet to complete their rounds when the day’s proceedings were halted.

29-year-old Kapurthala based Sandhu was tied 7, three off the leader while Sharma, Anirban Lahiri and SSP Chawarasia were down the leader board.

On a day when Indians found it hard to find their rhythm, Sandhu came up with four birdies to be among the top finishers of the day.

“I could say today’s round was almost a dream round. My hitting was just amazing. I hit all fairways and made regulation on 17 out of 18 greens. We were a little lucky that the wind wasn’t up today otherwise this course can pose many more challenges,” said Sandhu after his round.

“I just missed a few putts out there but that wasn’t due to bad putting. There were a few lip-outs. It’s just 18 holes done and a lot of golf is still to be played.

So I’ll have to keep my thoughts in check since this golf course can come back and bite you at any moment. It’s a course that you can’t overpower. So the effort will be to continue in the same manner over the next three days by trying to find maximum fairways and greens,” Sandhu added.

Pre-tournament favourite Shubankar Sharma started disastrously. He carded three bogeys and a double bogey in his first nine to be at five over 41. He however steadied himself in his second nine in which he hit four birdies to retrieve the situation to some extent by finishing the round at one over 73.

“My ball-striking was good through the day. You can’t make mistakes here as it’s a penalizing course. Playing here is a tough test of one’s ability, and one has to be on top of his game to do well. There’s a lot to learn from today’s round. I’ll look to make amends tomorrow after taking a lot of positives from the front-nine today,” he said.

Winner of 2015 edition Anirban Lahiri struggled to get into his grooves. He however managed to end the round at par with two birdies and two bogeys to finish tied 38. Two time winner and defending champion SSP Chaurasia also started dismally carded a double bogey and dropped two more strokes before earning two birdies to go out at two over 38.On his return he had two birdies and two bogeys which saw him finishing the round at two over 74 and he was tied at joint 74.